I don’t always do extensive background on the people I’m going to speak with. Limited space in some publications means I can’t delve too deep, plus I like being surprised and going with the flow, making interviews more like conversations. I give the background info I get from PR people a cursory glance, but I like my discovery process to be more organic. My intention most times is to delve into why and how more than who (although I believe that why and how tell you about the who, but I digress).
A few weeks ago, I interviewed the man who took the following photo and created this piece of art.
We had a lovely conversation that lasted almost 30 minutes. We talked about his process and why and how he does what he does. He talked about New Orleans, which I enjoyed hearing about (my dad was from Louisiana). I learned a lot and we laughed about a few things.
Shortly after I hung up the phone, I began writing the article. I googled the name of a woman he told me he photographed: Leah Chase. I discovered she was “the 91-year-old Queen of Creole Cuisine.” She’s also nationally known. Then, I googled my subject: Donald E. Camp. Turns out, so is he.
Even with my trips to museums and reading and learning about art through the years, I didn’t know his work. I also didn’t know he was famous in artistic circles (which is good — that would have made me nervous). I discovered through my own process that he is a photographer with an interesting style and a really cool goal: to photograph people he admires, many of them unsung heroes and helpers of others.
The things I get to write about afford me opportunities to meet some truly extraordinary individuals, and I’m happy when I get to discover what makes them unique before the Internet tells me so. I didn’t know about the work of Donald E. Camp prior to our conversation, but I do now. And it was nice to get to know a bit about Don Camp, one on one, human to human.